The Missing Link between Inequality and the Environment in SDG 10
Social equality was one of three dimensions to be considered by the SDG High Level Panel of Eminent Persons. In keeping with the central importance of inequality, one of the 17 goals, SDG 10, is dedicated to reducing inequality. Yet, despite strong and well-documented links between inequality and environmental impacts, SDG 10 does not mention the environment, while more environmentally-focused goals address inequality indirectly, if at all. This raises the question of how a plan to achieve the SDGs taken as a whole should best think about relationships between inequality, environmental impacts, and access to environmental resources. In this chapter we address this question through the lens of three frameworks: climate equity, environmental justice, and analysis of distributional impacts. These frameworks urge a systemic view of inequalities and how they are reinforced and perpetuated. Absent a systems approach, acting on environmentally-focused goals can inadvertently exacerbate inequalities. This observation suggests the utility of an “SDG interactions” approach to sustainability policy. Interactions between SDG 10 and other goals can be either positive or negative, depending on how strategies are designed and implemented.